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Divorce referendum expected to be held November 2018

Currently, couples must have lived apart for four years out of the preceding five before they can initiate divorce proceedings.

Updated 5pm

MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC could be casting their vote in another referendum on divorce in November 2018.

The government accepted Fine Gael’s Josepha Madigan’s proposal to reduce the waiting time for a divorce from four years to two.

The change will require a constitutional referendum.

Currently, couples must have lived apart for four years out of the preceding five before they can initiate divorce proceedings.

Madigan’s Bill will reduce the period of time to two years out of the previous three.

Speaking to, she said:

“It is going to go to a referendum, the Taoiseach has said to me, he hopes in November 2018. I would be really delighted with that. Obviously, I would like it before that but there are a lot of other referendums to get through, so I am delighted.”

However, speaking to reporters today the Taoiseach would not be drawn on a specific date for the referendum.

“We haven’t set a date for the referendum yet, but one of the items going before Cabinet in the next number of weeks is a memo setting out the schedule for referenda to take place over the next couple of years.

“I think it would make sense now to set indicative dates so that a government can work towards those dates. The one most likely to come next is the 8th amendment, but of course there are others in the pipeline,” he said.

The latest figures on divorce rates in Ireland show that they have returned to pre-economic downturn levels.

At a time when austerity measures were enforced, jobs were lost and incomes reduced, divorce rates dropped on a similar scale: in 2009, there was a reduction in applications of over 12% (3,693 applications) and again in 2010 (3,357 applications) before bottoming out in 2011.

But the number of couples applying for divorce has been rising slowly since – reaching their highest level this century in 2015 at 4,290 applications. Those numbers dropped slightly in 2016 to 4,162, but are expected to rise again this year.

Rising divorce rates are usually a positive indicator: they suggest that individuals are financially stable and have adequate access to solicitors and State supports to leave their spouses.

As a practicing solicitor for the last 20 years, Madigan said she has seen countless couples in the last decade unable to move out of the home they share together due to having no money.

“We used to call them from soul-mates to cell-mates, because they were effectively stuck together. Now it seems the divorce rate has actually gone up because people have a little more spending money, maybe one of the spouses can afford to rent,” she said.

The Programme for Government pledges to hold a number of referendums on a variety of topics. However, no specific timetable had been set out.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told reporters over the summer he has a few timelines in mind as to when citizens will be asked to go to the polls.

It’s looking like people will have their say on a number of questions next summer, as well as later in the year – with another set of referenda likely in 2019.

“The windows that we have in mind are around June/July next year, another set in November at the same time as the presidential election and then another set in May or June 2019 at the same time as the local and European elections,” said Varadkar.

Varadkar told the media today that it’s not yet known if a number of referendums will be held on the same day. Previously, the Taoiseach had said he was not opposed to having a “referendum day”.

“That’s not set out out, that’s not decided yet. I think there’s a common view talking to people that because the issue of the Eighth Amendment is going to require such level of debate, such discussion and such sensitivity that it might be wiser to have that one on its own, but other issues I think could be paired up as they have in the past,” he said.

Recession’s toll on divorce rates ends as applications return to 2008 levels>

Read: You’ll be voting in quite a few referendums over the next two years>

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